In today’s market, candidates (and employees) are experiencing the same dynamic pressures that affect SaaS and other technology products. By thinking of themselves as products and applying the same practices and techniques that lead to market success, they can remain current and meet the rapidly evolving needs of the most elite employers. Those that don’t will continue to fall further and further behind.
The Criticality of Understanding Your Target Market’s Needs
To win, products must attune to constantly shifting market needs and adjust accordingly. The best SaaS solutions are always adding new features, updating their user interfaces, and improving the user experience. It is the only way to deliver on heightened expectations and outdo the competition.
Candidates must have a similar approach. Their new “features” are the new skill sets they acquire. They must be able to plan and conduct their own research to develop an awareness of employer market trends. They must also be able to recognize the present and predicted needs of these employers and how those needs map to the capabilities they deem necessary to achieve success.
Formulaic career paths with a “typical profile” are dying. Hierarchies are giving way to collaboration. Specialization is being superseded by “super jobs” that require wide skill sets. Most companies are focused on improving their teams’ technical literacy; technology is now touching EVERY job and employee.
The Playing Field is Leveling
Experience, pedigree, and alma mater, once considered vital predictors of success, no longer have the cachet they once enjoyed. “Contacts” and “getting to the right person” continue to become less critical. Companies have become so competitive that the new currency is the skills they need to win in their markets, along with portfolios that prove those skills.
In fact, in the race for top talent, employers are reaching out directly and aggressively to recruit candidates with their desired skillsets, recruiting them via increasingly untraditional venues. Just as the internet made a wide variety of products available to consumers, the acceptance of work-from-home has widened the available talent pool for employers, which is no longer limited by geography.
This bodes well for increasing diversity, which brings additional benefits. Forbes discusses research by McKinsey and BCG that shows that companies with higher diversity outperform others financially (EBIT margins 9% higher) and by delivering more innovation.
Once and Done is Gone
Product development methodologies have changed. Long, linear techniques (e.g., Waterfall) have given way to paths that are more winding and iterative, more suited to innovation and complex products or markets. They favor multi-faceted, investigative, inquisitive methods that at the same time excel at rapid iteration. Design Thinking comes to mind, in which the goal is to learn about and remain close to market needs by leveraging customer feedback, rapid prototyping, and testing. When combined with Continuous Deployment, new features can be rolled out on an ongoing basis in unbroken cycles, without a clear ending.
Like software, whose features are never “done”, upskilling is ongoing, unfinished work undertaken in incremental steps for rapid, continuous betterment. To keep up, candidates must be the masters of their own learning cadence. This means the self-discipline to set aside time regularly to take a university course, access a MOOC, create an online portfolio, or collaborate on a project with others. Learning is now a lifelong journey. Like companies or products that have disrupted themselves to avoid being disrupted, employees and candidates disrupt themselves through upskilling to stay competitive.
Self-Management is Critical
This will be a self-charted journey. Candidates and employees can no longer rely on companies to guide them to certain classes or experiences and then arrange them on their behalf. Based on the skillsets they’ve identified as necessary, they must create their own learning plans. This requires an Agile mindset, awareness, and self-management, which are essential skills in and of themselves and highly attractive to forward-thinking companies.
In today’s changing world, candidates must be their own product start-up – scrappy, fast-paced, and inquisitive. A love of learning is helpful but not required. Persistence is.